Editorial

State Election Result No More Effective In National Politics

Let us start from the BIHAR election. This assembly election in Bihar matters less than ever before on three counts. First, as compared to the recent past, Bihar matters less to our national life. Second, state politics matters less to national politics. And third, mere conducting of elections, victories, and losses matter less to the fate of our democracy. For about quarter of a century, from 1990 till 2013, politics at the state level was the key to understanding national politics. The outcome of the national election was nothing but a sum-total of state-level verdicts. In sharp contrast to the politics of 1970s and 1980s, when people voted in state elections as if they were electing their Prime Minister, they later began voting in Lok Sabha elections as if they were choosing their Chief Minister. All that changed with 2014. Since then, the trends and patterns of state elections are no guide to what could happen in a national election. We are in an era of “ticket-splitting”, where the same voter can vote differently for different levels of elections, even when voting for both on the same day. In 2019, voters in Odisha favored the BJP in the Lok Sabha election, while reposing their confidence in the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in the assembly election on the very same day. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was comprehensively rejected in the Lok Sabha election, only to be vote back to power with a thumping majority in Delhi a few months later.The same applies to Bihar. BJP does well, there would be loud claims about endorsement for PM Modi, his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the economy (and who knows, the Chinese occupation as well!). But much of that is empty rhetoric. This election might tell us something about the mood of the Bihari voter at the state level, but not much about their preference at the national level, which is what really matters. Elections, at the state or national level, are no longer pivotal to our political life. In the life of our democracy, elections have played a more important role than most other countries. Since our public institutions have been generally very weak, elections have remained almost the sole bridge that connects people with power. That is why elections were the most happening site in our democracy, the moment for occasional but real exercise of popular sovereignty.

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